Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)

What is PRP?

PRP stands for Platelet Rich Plasma. The blood contains many healing factors.

Our body’s healing capacity is truly amazing. From the healing of simple cuts in the skin to the healing of major bone fractures, our bodies have great healing capabilities. But what happens when the body is unable to heal itself; when the healing process stalls?

This is exactly what may happen in certain tendon conditions such as tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), plantar fascitis, Achilles tendonitis, and rotator cuff tendonitis. In the past, physicians treated these conditions as being a problem of an overactive healing response or excessive inflammation (hence the term “itis”). Such treatments were designed to decrease inflammation by using oral anti-inflammatory medications or even local cortisone injections. Although these traditional treatments still have their place, they may be ineffective in some patients. Research shows that these conditions may actually be caused by the exact opposite problem; stalling of the normal healing process and a lack of inflammation. In order to achieve relief, it is necessary to re-start the healing process. But how can this be done?

In the past, surgery was the only other option. Surgery for these particular problems involves removing poor quality tissue and creating an environment that allows the body to re-start the healing process to correct the problem. Surgery carries certain risks and a relative lengthy period of healing. Understandably, many people would like to avoid this if possible.

A breakthrough new treatment in many cases is providing a much easier solution. It is called PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma). PRP is a local injection of the patient’s own concentrated healing factors that is administered directly into the site of the problem. In many cases, the injection relieves the symptoms associated with these tendon disorders. PRP allows physicians to harness the body’s healing potential. It may allow for alleviation of symptoms due to conditions arising from a lack of an appropriate healing response.

How does it work? The healing factors are found in the patient’s own blood. During the procedure, blood is drawn from the patient just the same as when completing blood work. This blood is then placed within a centrifuge (a device that spins rapidly causing heavier portions of the blood to fall to the bottom of the container and lighter portions to float to the top). Platelets, which are involved in the blood clotting process, also play an integral role in the healing process especially when coupled with other healing factors located within blood plasma. This platelet rich plamsa is then extracted from the centrifuged blood. The PRP is then injected into the specific problem area. This injection may restart the healing process and cause the damaged tissues to heal, thus relieving symptoms.

In many cases this promising new technology has eliminated the need for surgery. When surgery is necessary, it can also be utilized during certain procedures, such as during tendon repairs, to help augment the body’s healing potential.

While PRP is not the right answer for every tendon disorder, it certainly is another option in the treatment of these common conditions.